30-Day Blogging Challenge | Day 4| How does my Hearing Loss Affect my Job?
Last Friday, I wrapped up Day 3 of the 30-Workday Blogging Challenge with the question: How does my hearing loss affect my job, much less my everyday life? I promised some embarrassing stories that I’ve accumulated over four years that are a direct result of my hearing loss. My top five is the time I walked in on a half-naked couple in a photo booth...(they weren't taking photos so the flash wasn't going off so I didn't think anyone was in there). Needless to say, they quickly got dressed and ran out... so I ran in and stayed until I stopped blushing. I probably could have avoided moments like this if I could hear. I would've heard kissing sounds or something, but nope, instead I got some PG-13 action at a high-dollar wedding venue instead.
Here’s the abbreviated version of the rest of my top 5 stories. (All my client names are going to remain anonymous because like I said: it’s embarrassing).
1. In the winter of 2016, I was photographing at a small country club wedding outside Charlotte, North Carolina. The bride and groom wanted to get ready at the “locker rooms” of these clubs, which are basically bathrooms for senators with toilets, showers and changing space all in one room. When it came time to capture the groom getting pretty, I knocked on the men’s locker room door and didn’t hear anything. Assuming they were distracted and getting boutonnieres on, I just let myself in. Thinking the men's powder room was a similar setup to the ladies—they were in fact the opposite as the men's stalls were right where you walked in. Let me tell ya—it was stinky in there! The grooms friends were laughing and I heard a stern voice from the middle stall: “Be right out!” I was so caught off guard I actually said “Shit, take your time!” I’m not even the type of person to cuss much less accidentally make a connotation about poop while the man is making a brown egg.
2. Usually before every wedding, I finalize wedding day itineraries but sometimes little details get left out, like *After formal family photos, we want to do bride+groom photos across street on the beach on a random property then ride over to reception which is also at the beach 2 miles away.* so when they told me, “Let’s do our photos at the beach” after their family photos, I just assumed they meant the beach where their reception was. In hindsight, they said something like the Beckham cottage, but the lightbulb never went off that I didn’t hear them right. Instead, I speed out of the church and hurry to find a parking spot at the reception so I can meet my second-shooter and prepare for their arrival. After about 30 seconds, someone in the family says “Hey, that was fast, weren’t they doing photos with you at the beach?” After connecting the dots, I ran back to my car and back over to the church and see them across the street on beach side looking for me. I was flabbergasted in how I could have messed up so badly, but you live and you learn right? Now I’m extra thorough and ask all the detailed questions in a pre-wedding questionnaire.
3. In the summer of 2017, I booked a 20-person sunset session with a large family I didn’t know. One of the daughters had e-mailed me a few days prior saying there was a divorce in the family and to not ask her mom and dad to be photographed together. Her dad was in town for one night so they could get a family photo taken together. Come the day of portraits, I introduce myself to three different sets of grown-up couples and their children and I misheard the names so what did I do? I asked the mom and her ex-husband to give me a big fat kiss. Well, that tension could have been sliced with a dull butterknife. The mom turned plum red but I promise I was a shade darker.
4. This story is from two weeks ago when I was meeting a potential bride and her mom at a local coffee shop. I had rushed out of the house and forgot my purse, which carries my extra implant batteries. I didn’t think anything of it until my cochlear implant dies halfway through the meeting with them. Trying to win them over and gain their business, I proceeded to rely on lip reading for the next 20 minutes. I just asked them a lot questions so I would always know what the context was. I was scared that that if I told them what was going on, that they would wonder: “What if she shoots our wedding and her implant dies during it and she forgets her batteries and she won’t be able to hear anything. Is she responsible enough?” They are so sweet though so I should have given them the benefit of the doubt. All that lip-reading worked though, I’m happy to report that I’ll be photographing their wedding this Fall with a camera bag full of extra implant batteries.
Having significant hearing loss brings embarrassing moments, sure, but they eventually become great dinner table stories. Having a sense of humor about things like that is SO important if I don’t want to crawl into a dark hole and stay there. On the same token, my imperfections also helps me in my job sometimes—especially during weddings with a lot of drama or in photoshoots involving divorced couples. The oblivion to the details that most people would get from eavesdropping sometimes helps me stay uninvolved and provide a sense of nonchalance and carefreeness. My oblivion to the temporary reality seems to sometimes helps people feel normal despite their insecurities and worries.
Yes, I wear a hearing device that help me hear so much better, but they aren’t human ears—I don’t hear everything and and I sure don't hear everything perfectly. Because of that, it took me a long time to get over being socially self-conscious about the side effects of my imperfections. My confidence has grown to the point where I’m telling the world about my hearing loss on this blog but there are always days where I wonder what it’d be like to be following along conversations with graceful effort. My husband has asked me why I'm always more tired than him after events and I tell him “Because I have to work harder to listen and make sure I don’t say something completely out of context.” He usually replies with a sweet laugh “It’s usually so funny though Helen, don’t even worry about it.” I literally have wrinkles on my forehead from concentrating so hard on conversations in the last 27 years but I’m just so thankful I can even be a part of conversations. Technology has enriched my entire life and has allowed me to hear my husband and my family say the three most beautiful words in the English language: I love you.One man is responsible for that...Thank you Dr. William F. House, the inventor of the first cochlear implant for braving skepticism and trial and error to restore a vital human sense. Essentially, his invention has restored the quality of life for 324,000 people and counting.
I was born and raised on the Outer Banks, and went to school at UNC-Chapel Hill for college while working summers with a local professional wedding photographer. I taught art in Atlanta, GA for a year before coming back to the OBX to start my dream of owning my own photography and graphic design business. My husband, Jess and I met on the OBX in 2015 and moved to Wilmington, NC in June 2017 with our two fur animals and are proud to call it our forever home. When I'm not behind the camera, you can find me on my beach cruiser or fishing on our boat or surfing (terribly) at Masonboro Island. Ready for an adventure near and far so don't hesitate to give me a shout.